… Exposure to blue light and eye fatigue is a predominant concern amongst desk-based workplaces. Providing monitors that incorporate low blue light technology is an easy solution to help prevent eye strain.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Shannon MacKay.

Shannon MacKay, General Manager of Lenovo’s Smart Collaboration Business Group is responsible for leading the team that makes ThinkSmart smart collaboration technology and services to support flexible work. She is passionate about building more inclusive teams and developing new collaborative work experiences.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

Being raised by my grandmother certainly uniquely shaped how I look at life, family, and work especially given the generational differences and what opportunities she did or didn’t have in terms of education and employment. She always preached that no one can make you feel inferior but yourself and that I needed to be the key to my own success and that would only come via hard work. She was an amazing lady that again left a large impression on who I am today.

For the first 20 years of my career, I had the privilege of being a military wife. It was a challenging lifestyle with ups and downs and unique issues to deal with like deployments and separation, but it was worth it. It taught me how to have more patience and it made me a strong independent and resilient person that can now take about anything life throws at me in stride.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

  • The workplace will certainly not be the same in 10–15 years. Technology and workplace culture have advanced tremendously since working from home. Flexible work has empowered employees to find new ways to balance work and family responsibilities or try out new remote work arrangements on the road and in new cities. Over the next decade, we expect to see the office serve as a business center, where workers can come to take in-person meetings, collaborate, print documents and head home–wherever that may be — to finish their focused work.
  • The need for connection and collaboration will stay the same in the workforce whether it’s in the office or virtually. So far, the success of hybrid and remote work has been on account of technology enabling better connectivity and collaboration. Although teams may be spread out, the work is still being done efficiently — whether asynchronously or together in virtual spaces.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

  • Get familiar with employee expectations to ensure you are meeting their needs. This means taking the time to initiate honest conversations with your teams, ask questions and listen. Creating a strong workplace culture that unites the workforce can help equalize the work experience for both remote and onsite workers.
  • Team collaboration should be a top priority in the workforce, whether it’s in the office or in a hybrid environment. It must be consciously navigated and carefully planned, and the organizations that do so intentionally, stand to gain greater levels of innovation and better bottom-line results. Explore adoption of collaboration as a service (CaaS), which allows businesses to gain best-in-class advisory, and access the necessary hardware, software and services that are required to support collaborative flexible work. In today’s shifting environments, remaining competitive starts and ends with collaboration technology built for flexibility, scalability, and customization.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

  • Many employers hope their workforce will return to offices as COVID-19 restrictions lighten. On the other hand, employees around the world are clear in their desire for flexibility moving forward. In fact, 70 percent of global employees surveyed report higher job satisfaction and 56 percent feel more productive at home.
  • For employers reopening their offices it can be easy to fall back into old habits and routines, but I advocate to our customers and partners to resist this. As our professional lives have evolved, so should our relationship with the office to ensure that both on-site and remote workers feel seen and heard — both emotionally and physically.
  • It will naturally take time to master the art of facilitating more inclusive hybrid meetings. We have an opportunity to redesign our conference rooms and collaboration spaces to be more inclusive, ensuring that our ‘hybrid’ meetings are productive and impactful.
  • Employers can proactively assess employee needs and ramp up technology solutions so workers onsite can access new ways to collaborate with global teams– for example, installing smart whiteboards that show real-time edits for remote participants. Meeting room systems also deserve extra focus, where modular or all-in-one solutions can add interactive features and improve the onsite experience. Those solutions could look like camera and sound bar innovations for wide field of view, auto-framing or noise cancellation. It could look like reconfiguring furniture for more natural visibility and interaction.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

  • The past two years have proved that workers don’t need to be in the office to be productive. That is why employees are pushing for flexible and hybrid work arrangements to continue indefinitely. But perfecting the hybrid model will take time, testing and learning.
  • When up to 50% of employees are not in the office full time, offices will function more like a co-working space and business center. Concepts like hot desking optimize office real estate, allowing workers to claim a desk for one day at a time instead of having a permanent dedicated seat in the office.
  • Working from home has also changed the culture of the workplace for many companies. Productivity is no longer measured by hours and days present in the office. Leadership styles were adjusted to ensure remote workers get equal attention and opportunity before, during and after meetings. Self-management stepped up as workers took more ownership of their roles, learning how to master them without immediate access to teammates or managers like we did when we were all in the same office.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

  • The traditional employee/employer hierarchy has changed and improving the employee experience is at the forefront of every discussion about the Great Resignation.
  • Employees today have come to the realization that it is their right to feel good about their work/life balance. Employees want to be seen and valued in the workplace, with flexibility to align their work to their personal passions. They’re realizing their value as business contributors, as humans, and feeling more freedom to take risks and take ownership of their career paths.
  • The shifting balance in power will force companies to listen to employee concerns and take action more deliberately to ensure that employee retention remains high and attrition doesn’t impact the business.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

People, and their resilience and drive to adapt to life-changing events and overcome personal and societal challenges.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

  • Exposure to blue light and eye fatigue is a predominant concern amongst desk-based workplaces. Providing monitors that incorporate low blue light technology is an easy solution to help prevent eye strain.
  • It’s also easy to fill up your day with back-to-back meetings when you cut out commute times and travel time between conference rooms. Companies should enact wellness policies such as cutting hour-long meetings back to 45-minutes to create natural breaks in the day to stretch your legs or look away from the screen. Another popular idea is to incorporate ‘no meeting Fridays’ to provide workers a day to catch up on tasks and take a break from being ‘on’ all day.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

The most important message that leaders need to hear is that employee satisfaction is not a “nice to have” metric. It is essential to talent retention and a driver of business competition. If employees are not happy in their current way of working, it is the company’s job to understand why that may be. All employees want better work-life balance and a supportive company culture. It is the employer’s responsibility to help make that a possibility for their workers.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

  1. The employee of the future is more empowered — Highly flexible work-from-anywhere solutions are become part and parcel of attracting talent. 90% of employees want flexibility in where and when they work, and nearly half of those would consider leaving their job if flexibility was not offered. Employees feel empowered to have greater control over their career destiny, and hyper-flexible smart collaboration solutions can help enterprises offer the full spectrum of where and how employees collaborate, and in turn attract and retain talent.
  2. Collaboration isn’t “one-size-fits-all” — Ubiquitous collaboration must work everywhere. In office, at home and every place in between. By 2024, in-person meetings will drop from 60% to 25%. Digital collaboration platforms are the most important factor in enabling and sustaining hybrid working. Technology, however, must be smart and bring the same natural engaging experiences to all participants, regardless of location. 98% of meetings now have at least one remote participant, so collaboration solutions need to offer the right technology for the right environment that helps deliver the outcomes expected from meetings.
  3. Seamless collaboration in the hybrid world results in greater levels of innovation — As organizations accelerate investments in digital transformations, a seamless and scalable deployment of office-based and remote collaboration solutions will drive higher levels of productivity and innovation. For IT staff, removing complexity from legacy systems and introducing self and remote manageable solutions will allow them to refocus efforts towards business-critical innovations. End users will find themselves more engaged and productive in meetings, reducing their number and duration, freeing up time to be creative and drive their respective business priorities forward.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt. I believe this quote speaks for itself.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

Oprah Winfrey — I admire her as a person and for what she has been able to accomplish throughout her career. She has broken so many barriers and stereotypes and I can only imagine what great advice and insights she can offer to other women like myself.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

The best way to connect is on LinkedIn. I share stories, my views on the workplace and the latest news that is happening at Lenovo.

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.